As it prepared for its night game with LSU last Saturday, second-ranked Mississippi had a right to consider itself the No. 1 team in the country, for that afternoon, as Ole Miss was well aware, first-ranked Michigan State had lost to Minnesota, thus vacating the top position.
A few hours later that position was filled—but not by Mississippi. It belonged to Texas or Alabama or Ohio State or Colorado, all of which had won games to remain undefeated. Mississippi, which had lost to LSU 10-7, was out on the sidewalk.
Mississippi had started the second half with a 7-3 lead—still the top team in the country. But midway through the third period, LSU marched 80 yards, most of it on a 57-yard run by Jerry Stovall. With the ball on the seven-yard line, LSU tried a new reverse play it had never used before. Halfback Wendell Harris scooted into the end zone untouched, and Mississippi was dead.
Of the teams fighting for the national title, only Colorado had trouble winning. Matched against Missouri, its closest rival for the Big Eight championship and a trip to the Orange Bowl, Colorado scored on a 21-yard pass seconds before the end of the first half to lead 7-0. Missouri came back to score in the final period and then gambled on a two-point conversion and victory. Mike Hunter lobbed a pass into the end zone, which Colorado's Reed Johnson barely deflected with his fingertips. Coach Sonny Grandelius heaved a sigh of relief that could be heard a mile away.
For an entire year Syracuse had brooded over its 1960 defeat by Pitt. Last Saturday, after the Panthers built up a 9-0 lead, it looked as if the men from Piety Hill were in for another year of brooding. But Ernie Davis charged over from the eight-yard line late in the second quarter and, after that, there was simply no containing Syracuse. Davis slashed away at the Pitt line for 119 yards, Dave Sarette passed to End John Mackey and Davis for two touchdowns and ran for another and the aroused Syracuse defenders bowled over the Panther backs so forcefully they jarred them loose from the ball four times. The result: a 28-9 victory for Syracuse.
Meanwhile, other eastern independents were busy building a modest prestige at the expense of second-and third-line Midwestern rivals. Boston College, trailing meekly behind Iowa State 10-0, as it was supposed to, suddenly came to life in the last quarter and beat the Cyclones 14-10. Army, even without injured Quarterback Dick Eckert, was hardly a fair match for Detroit, especially after the Titans lost their fine quarterback, Jerry Gross, with a broken ankle in the second period, and the Cadets won 34-7. Holy Cross had the easiest time of all, beating Dayton 28-0.
Yale's demise as the Ivy League champion was almost complete. The bumbling Elis handed grateful Dartmouth an early touchdown, and the aggressive Indians methodically followed Quarterback Bill King to an easy 24-8 triumph. However, even without Yale, there were enough live contenders to challenge first-place Princeton, which stomped over poor Brown 52-0. Columbia's Tom Haggerty dashed through Cornell for 84-, 64-and 47-yard touchdown runs as the Lions won 35-7, and unpredictable Harvard throttled Perm's single wing, winning 37-6.
The Mid-Atlantic race was heading for a showdown. Unbeaten Rutgers (6-0) rolled over Lafayette 37-6 and can win the title by defeating Delaware (a 28-0 winner over Temple) Saturday. Lehigh, out of the running, upset Colgate 20-15. The top three:
1. SYRACUSE (5-2)
2. NAVY (5-2)
3. PENN STATE (4-3)